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Nuclear Sector Deal

Volume 644: debated on Wednesday 11 July 2018

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the nuclear sector deal.

Thank you for your chairmanship this morning, Mr Owen. I believe this is the first time I have served under your chairmanship and it is a pleasure to do so, especially as I know you have spoken often and enthusiastically about the nuclear sector and Wylfa’s Hitachi Horizon investment, which I also look forward to. I thank the Minister for his attendance today and his continued interest in and genuine support for my work both in Copeland and here in Westminster. I thank all Members for their contributions to the debate.

My interest in nuclear is personal, professional and political. In 1976, there was much more to celebrate than the long hot summer—it was the year that I was born in a small coastal village adjacent to Sellafield. It is fair to say that in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the nuclear sector did not have the best image. My childhood was blighted by protests and anti-nuclear groups who advocated for all sites to be decommissioned and an end to civil nuclear energy generation. Growing up listening to my father’s explanations of the industry that he worked in as a commissioning engineer—I later followed—and understanding my husband’s precision skills honed over 39 years as a nuclear welder, as well as those of my brother, who works as a nuclear cyber-consultant, I know first hand how the area I proudly call home is quite rightly celebrated across the globe for nuclear excellence.

On Wednesday 17 October 1956, Queen Elizabeth II officially opened Calder Hall, the world’s first nuclear-powered electricity station, in my Copeland constituency, on what is now known as the Sellafield site. Britain’s civil nuclear sector was born. Some 62 years on, the industry has suffered decline. At an all-time low in 2003, it could have been seen off completely. This Government seem to have come to their senses and recognise the economic, environmental and social value of the nuclear industry. I have an incredible sense of pride in and optimism for the sector, and for Copeland in particular as the centre of nuclear excellence.

Of the 87,000 nuclear workers in the UK, 40%—some 27,000—live in Cumbria. Each worker gives an average £96,600 gross value added to the economy, as estimated by the Nuclear Industry Association and Oxford Economics. The Government’s nuclear sector deal fills me with a burning ambition. There is a great deal to be optimistic about, and many priorities that I have previously advocated. I am really pleased to see the potential for better collaboration between nuclear defence and nuclear civil, and many references to apprenticeships. It is a rare document, which both excites and instils pride, as this industry, which is equal to the automotive industry in economic output, is quite rightly recognised.

Moving to the content of the deal, the optimism for research and development across the industrial strategy is welcomed. The National Nuclear Laboratory is a world-leading centre in my Copeland constituency, based near Sellafield, where scientists, in collaboration with the University of Glasgow and Lynkeos Technology, have developed an innovation that uses cosmic particles to detect nuclear materials, which could revolutionise nuclear decommissioning and the storing of historical waste. It is being used to investigate the location of molten fuel within the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan. The technology is now being commercialised and is just one example of how Innovate UK R&D funding is being used to create commercially marketable, globally required products.

Recognition for better routes to market, retaining intellectual property and support for export and decommissioning, is long overdue. The techniques and skills for and innovative solutions to incredibly complex legacy challenges in difficult or impossible to work in environments are being met daily in and around Sellafield and the low-level waste repository. Being the world’s first to design, commission and operate, and then being the world’s first to decommission, brings unprecedented opportunities for UK plc. I want to ensure that the capability in this niche area is understood by the Government. It includes technology such as the self-climbing platform that Nuvia was involved with, created to remove each piece of concrete and steel from a 61 metre stack. The reverse engineering required to cut open the world’s oldest nuclear waste store, on which Babcock and Bechtel have collaborated alongside Sellafield, is another innovation.

Sellafield has become a visitor attraction in its own right, with scientists and engineers from across the world coming to see how nuclear excellence, safety and a local workforce have come together to deal with the most complex challenges. We are missing a huge opportunity if easy routes to commercialisation, an entrepreneurial spirit and much better support for small and medium-sized enterprises are not realised. The new framework to support the development and deployment of small modular reactors is brilliant. The concept of modular building with a pipeline and the potential to commercialise the technology offers substantial benefits, both nationally and internationally.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on bringing this debate to Westminster Hall. Does she agree that small modular reactors are not just a more concise way of producing nuclear power but are also an easier way to build in areas that are quite inaccessible, such as in my constituency, where we are looking for a third SMR?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. There is huge scope for small and medium reactors in Britain. Perhaps even more importantly, there is the opportunity for us to export skills in manufacturing and the deployment of modular reactors across the globe. But SMRs alone will not keep the lights on.

To ensure that we deal with the reality of an ageing network of existing nuclear reactors, increased power requirements and ever inflating costs, it is essential to find new ways of developing and financing new nuclear. The implementation of a regulated asset base model allows the Government to redefine new nuclear for the UK. The RAB will allow the NuGen management team, which is developing the Moorside plant in Copeland with Government assurances, to create a UK entity focused on a UK solution for UK consumers.

To secure the future of the third large-scale reactor in the Generation III programme, Moorside requires the regulated asset base to be implemented as soon as possible to give certainty to investors. The sector deal aims for a 30% reduction in the cost of new build projects by 2030, alongside promoting a more competitive supply chain, with more UK companies using advanced manufacturing methods and entering domestic and export markets for nuclear goods and services than ever before.

The global nuclear new build economy is worth around £1.2 trillion. Harnessing the scientific and industrial capability within Britain across the sector while recognising the wider opportunities in the UK’s financial services and regulatory frameworks would mean that this country was geared up to take full advantage of such a huge international market. I joined the Nuclear Safeguards Bill Committee and spoke at every stage of the parliamentary process. The Nuclear Safeguards Act 2018 puts Britain in the driving seat for safeguards, security and safety, with those all under the same roof—that of the Office for Nuclear Regulation.

The many references to people in both the industrial strategy and the nuclear sector deal signifies the huge importance of continuing to develop world-class skills. With an attrition rate of around 7,000 people each year and an anticipated requirement for 100,000 nuclear workers by 2021, it is essential to deliver on the proposed investment in maths, digital and technical education.

The aim to attract a 40% female workforce by 2030 is ambitious, especially considering the long way we have to go. Today, women represent between 16% and 22% of the nuclear industry workforce across the country. HR procedures reflecting family-friendly policies will help considerably, and Women in Nuclear, an organisation in my constituency, is making significant progress in that area. Nuclear licensed sites tend, by their nature, to be coastal and rural, so all too often the essential infrastructure for working parents is seriously lacking. In my constituency, there are 4,054 under-fives, but only 1,347 childcare places. That is three children for every place. The lack of high-quality, affordable and flexible childcare is the reason why, 20 years ago, I left the nuclear industry. I want to ensure that my four daughters and their generation do not face barriers due to their gender or geography.

The nuclear sector deal gives us much hope that we can ensure effective realisation so that the nuclear companies, the UK, and communities more widely, benefit. We must consider having a body with sufficient scope and purpose, like the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority—perhaps it could be renamed the nuclear development authority—to create economic growth, accelerate the clean-up mission and meet our energy needs.

I am delighted that a representative of Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster is in the Chamber today. The organisation actively supports the nuclear companies in Cumbria and across the north-west arc. Its comment about our nuclear opportunities and about Cumbria demonstrates the transformation over decades:

“Cumbria, a great place to work…an even better place to live”.

Delivering on the intentions in the deal, legislating for the regulated asset-base model, expanding the role of the NDA and taking a long-term approach to the industry will put us in the best position to create maximum economic impact with job and energy security for future generations. Thank you once again for your chairmanship, Mr Owen. I thank colleagues from across the House for being here, and I look forward to their contributions.

I thank the hon. Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison) for securing this important debate. Nuclear jobs are good jobs, and are often located in cities and towns where good jobs in other sectors are rare. I welcome the nuclear sector deal. I believe in a mixed energy policy with a greater focus on renewables and carbon-minimising generation from nuclear.

I am a fan of new nuclear, but my constituency is home not to civil nuclear jobs but to defence jobs. Our dockyard is the sole nuclear repair and refuelling facility for the Royal Navy. Nuclear jobs are in demand, and recruiters for civil nuclear regularly try to poach the highly skilled people from our dockyard and the Royal Navy. It is right that they do so, as Devonport’s nuclear workers are among the best in the business. I pay tribute to their work, which is often overlooked but is appreciated by all those who value the contribution of our submarine service—the bombers and the hunter-killers—to our nation’s security.

Nuclear jobs are not in the heart of the capital like financial services jobs. They are in the regions—the north-west and the south-west—and rightly so. Although I do not always agree with the high strike price for new civil nuclear, there is no doubt in my mind that civil nuclear has a bright future. However, I will confine my remarks to defence nuclear, about which there is a bit more uncertainty in my part of the world.

Military nuclear matters. I welcome the, albeit brief, mention in the nuclear sector deal of greater co-operation between civil and defence nuclear. I believe we need to do much more to enhance collaboration and co-operation between those two sectors—not just in research, but in jobs, skills, training and, importantly, decommissioning. The civil nuclear decommissioning programme rightly enjoys cross-party support. The taxpayer has unlimited liability to clean up the nation’s civil nuclear legacy and the sites contaminated by our country’s exploration of civil nuclear and its mastery of nuclear energy. It is right that new nuclear has decommissioning costs built into it.

Although there has been progress on the civil side of nuclear decommissioning, that has not been the case with defence nuclear. Hon. Members may not know that the UK still has every single nuclear submarine we have ever had. It is time that the legacy of old submarines was dealt with. Devonport dockyard in my constituency has 13 laid-up nuclear submarines awaiting recycling. Rosyth in Scotland has seven, and there are more to come. In Devonport, the oldest sub in storage is HMS Valiant. She is 54 years old, and was launched in 1963 at the height of the cold war. Many have been stored for decades, including HMS Conqueror, which famously sank the Belgrano in the Falklands war.

As a proud janner and a Plymouth lad, I have grown up knowing about those subs, but far too many people do not know about them. “Don’t they just go away?” was how one person responded when I told them about the old subs. Well, no, they do not. Those nuclear submarines get stored because the UK has no funded programme to recycle them. Eight in Devonport still have nuclear fuel rods and have not been defueled yet.

Those old nuclear submarines pose no risk to local communities. It is worth stating that because, all too frequently in nuclear debates, there is a question about safety. There is no risk to our local communities, but we cannot ask Plymouth and Rosyth to look after those submarines indefinitely without a plan.

To make matters worse, time is running out. In the next five years, three more Trafalgar-class submarines will need to be stored somewhere, as they are being replaced by the Astute class, which is being built in Barrow. A decade later, the four Vanguard-class nuclear submarines—the Trident subs—will need to be stored when they are taken out of service and replaced by the new Dreadnought-class submarines. There is a pilot project under way to dismantle HMS Swiftsure—the submarine my old man served on—but after much delay the programme has been paused. Progress is not being made at the pace we need if we are to deal with the rest of the submarines.

The reason why I am taking us on this detour into military nuclear, rather than civil nuclear, which is the focus of the nuclear deal, is to make the case for greater collaboration between the defence and civil nuclear sectors. The workforce moves between the two sectors, as does the science of decommissioning, but at the moment the Government still deal with them in two distinct silos. There is efficiency in collaborating, but Ministers from all Governments—including my own in the past—have kept the two sectors apart. I say to the Minister that it is time for this generation of politicians and Ministers to grasp this issue and change it.

The need to deal with the nuclear legacy of our nation’s old nuclear submarines unites all parties. That is why I have launched a cross-party campaign with the hon. Members for Copeland and for Dunfermline and West Fife (Douglas Chapman) to deal with our nation’s military nuclear legacy. We sent a joint letter to the Prime Minister and other party leaders asking them to commit to fund a proper programme of recycling the UK’s legacy and retired Royal Navy submarines. Successive Governments have refused to act, but that is not an option anymore.

Recycling old submarines is not cost-free, and given the Ministry of Defence’s current battle with the Treasury, there seem to be more pressing priorities for the limited funding. We cannot wait any longer, so I am looking to Ministers in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in particular, and the civil side to help us solve this urgent problem. We need a clear timetable for funding and dismantling, and a recycling programme. We believe that, to achieve that, we can beg, steal and borrow the principles from the civil nuclear decommissioning and waste management programme. We have called for a political consensus to recycle those old submarines and use the principles of civil nuclear decommissioning—especially the principles used by the civil Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which should be allocated additional funding so that its work includes nuclear submarines.

The taxpayer is rightly paying to clean up old nuclear power stations around the nation, but at the moment the same funding streams and principles—the unlimited liability, set out in law—have not been extended to old nuclear submarines, and they need to be. Civil nuclear power is built in metres of foundations, and defence nuclear power is built in floating hulls, but fundamentally the principles are the same. As well as being the right thing to do, expanding the civil nuclear clean-up budget to include nuclear submarines can turn an economic problem into an economic asset. The programme of work would create new jobs in Plymouth, Rosyth, Capenhurst and west Cumbria.

Above all, this is in the national interest. Plymouth and Rosyth cannot be asked to store old nuclear submarines indefinitely. That is why we need a properly funded plan, using the same principles as civil nuclear clean-up. The submarines must be recycled safely, sustainably and securely. I think the public are genuinely surprised and concerned to hear about the existence of these submarines. I invite hon. Members to look on Google Maps at the west side of Plymouth. They will see the submarines lined up alongside each other. When they see them there, they will realise that we have to do something about them. Not knowing about them has meant that we have been able to ignore them, but we cannot ignore them any longer.

There is only one mention of submarines in the nuclear sector deal, which I appreciate was written to look in particular at the civil nuclear side. That mention was of the equipment qualification, and while I agree with the thrust of it that greater expertise and applicability, as well as agile companies in our nuclear sector, will enhance British competitiveness, there is a market at home for nuclear decommissioning work, even before we look for new markets abroad.

The Minister has agreed to meet me and the hon. Members for Copeland and for Dunfermline and West Fife to discuss this topic, and I think that there is a positive way forward. We need to acknowledge that nuclear submarines exist and need to be dealt with; there is an existing structure of principles and of funding; and, importantly, there is a cross-party basis for any future agreement about the recycling of the submarines. I ask the Minister and his officials to look carefully at how the work can be extended so that that legacy can be dealt with once and for all.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison) on securing the debate on an issue that is important nationally, regionally and of course to her constituency.

I welcome the nuclear sector deal. Clearly, it is not a panacea, but it is an important and significant deal which will undoubtedly help the sector—in many respects it is a signpost for the industry. The implications will not only be positive and raise the profile of the sector, but demonstrate to a wider audience the worth of the nuclear industry and its significance.

A key part of the Government’s industrial strategy has, without doubt, to relate to energy: energy is vital to ensure that the industrial strategy works for the country. It also relates to energy security, and importantly, to ensuring that we have a proper base supply of nuclear energy, but with the right price so that the industry can be competitive and residential users can benefit.

The central parts of the nuclear sector deal that I think are important for my constituents relate to skills, R&D and the supply chain, so I will be a little parochial and touch on Cumbria. In many respects, Cumbria has two USPs—unique selling points—tourism and the nuclear industry. They are of similar economic value to the county, at about £3 billion each. The real challenge for Cumbria is to ensure that the nuclear deal benefits not just one part but the whole of the county. That is why research and development is so important—we can be a world leader, and already have many innovations and developments in Cumbria. Sellafield is at the forefront of decommissioning, and the skills that come from that are so important, not only to Cumbria but to the wider industry. We must not forget the importance of the defence industry and BAE Systems down in Barrow, which demonstrates that Cumbria is home to the whole spectrum of the nuclear industry. The third element is new build, and we would like to see NuGen get on with developing the new power station in Cumbria, which will directly benefit the whole country as well as the county.

The nuclear sector deal must be looked at not in isolation, but in terms of its importance for the wider economy. It can influence the supply chain, and in my constituency we have a couple of examples: Bendalls Engineering, a significant supply chain enterprise for Sellafield, and Clark Doors Ltd, which innovates in door technology and has built a relationship with Sellafield and the nuclear industry. There is also the benefit of employment opportunities, which go beyond nuclear and into professional services and the supply chain. Importantly for Cumbria and the national economy, we must maximise the nuclear pound in our communities, and recognise nuclear as a catalyst for economic development and economic growth. I very much support the Government’s initiatives. Nuclear must not be looked at in isolation but as part of the wider economy, and it therefore needs to work with local enterprise partnerships, councils and, clearly, the private sector.

I have some direct questions for the Minister. Will he confirm his support for NuGen and the development of a new build in Cumbria? Will he indicate when legislation on the RAB will be introduced? My hon. Friend the Member for Copeland mentioned the RAB and its importance for nuclear development. She also highlighted the importance of changing the role of the NDA, which should be about development, not just decommissioning. Finally, I thank the Minister for agreeing to come to the second Cumbria nuclear conference, and I very much look forward to seeing him there.

Order. I will call the Front Benchers at 10.30 am. A number of Members wish to speak, so if they speak for seven minutes each we should get everyone in.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Owen, especially since in such debates as this we often refer to developments in your constituency.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison) on securing this important debate. We have heard a lot of enthusiasm for new nuclear, but I will change that, because I do not share that enthusiasm. In fact, the Government have many questions to answer on their path towards new nuclear, in particular on new developments.

The disastrous Hinkley Point C project exemplifies the Government’s regressive energy strategy and lack of a long-term plan that could cost taxpayers billions. The project at Wylfa is no different: total project costs are unclear, but have been trailed to be about £20 billion—more expensive than Hinkley’s £19.6 billion—a figure that could rise with inevitable delays. The direct investment represents a reversal of decades of opposition to investing taxpayer money in new nuclear.

The Government must fulfil the Public Accounts Committee’s recommendation of a full value-for-money assessment before signing any deals, and they must consider the National Audit Office’s report on Hinckley Point C. Consumers already face the impact of a bad deal made by the Government. Hinkley Point is set to cost consumers a fortune because of the appalling strike price deal that the UK Government made with EDF. As a result of the bad deal, consumers are set to pay at least £30 billion over the 35-year contract through their electricity bills.

I apologise for being late, Mr Owen. I had a supply chain meeting.

I invite the hon. Gentleman to come to Hinkley C—I mean that sincerely. I will host him and I will show him around the site and what is going on at Hinkley C so that he can see on the ground what is happening there and at the National College for Nuclear. I think that it would give him a new perspective on the situation.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the invitation to Hinkley Point C, but seeing the construction and the rest of the work, however good the quality, would not change the fact that the deal is disastrous for the taxpayer. It is also unlikely to get any better, because we face paying for another failing nuclear project.

The strike price for the new project has been trailed at £77.50 per megawatt-hour, which is down from Hinkley Point’s £92.50 through UK Government support for capital costs. That figure, however, is still significantly more than for offshore wind at £57.50 per megawatt-hour, even including intermittency costs of about £7 per megawatt-hour. How can the Minister justify that cost to the taxpayer?

My second question concerns financial liability for nuclear power station safety. Liability for nuclear developers is capped at €1.3 billion in the event of a nuclear incident, as agreed in the Brussels and Paris conventions. An event such as the one at Fukushima, however, would cost hundreds of billions of pounds. Moreover, The Times reported that Hitachi “won’t pay” for nuclear accidents at Wylfa and that, according to Nikkei reports, some of Hitachi’s directors want

“safeguards that reduce or eliminate Hitachi’s financial responsibility for accidents at the plant”.

Hitachi has already had two serious safety breaches at its nuclear developments, one of which resulted in a $2.7 million fine by the US Government.

Decommissioning costs ate up around half the budget of the now disbanded Department of Energy and Climate Change after the liabilities for cleaning up old nuclear plants were in effect nationalised in 2004 and 2005, when British Nuclear Fuels Ltd and British Energy faced financial problems. At the moment Hinkley C’s decommissioning costs are estimated at between £5.9 billion to £7.2 billion. Dr Paul Dorfman notes that given that decommissioning costs have been consistently underrated, and the precedent set by the Government’s taking ownership of liabilities of these companies more than a decade ago, it is highly likely that the Government will be forced to shoulder further costs if Hinkley developers have a shortfall. Again, will the Minster give an urgent assurance that taxpayers will not be left liable for safety failures at the Wylfa nuclear plant? That is wrong headed, especially for Scotland.

The announcement comes at a time when the prices of offshore wind, other renewables and storage solutions have dropped dramatically. Let us remember that the UK Government made the shameful decision to pull the rug out from under their long-term carbon capture and storage scheme in Peterhead. By cancelling the £1 billion competition just six months before it was due to be awarded, after spending £100 million on it, they broke their own election manifesto promise and left Peterhead—a key candidate for support—behind. The decision left a huge and damaging legacy to investment incentives and consumer confidence in the UK. Their new idea for carbon capture and storage is not the £1 billion minimum required, but a tenth of that—£100 million—which equals what was already wasted.

While the UK Government continue to fail Scotland’s energy sector, the Scottish Government see carbon capture utilisation and storage—CCUS—as an important decarbonisation infrastructure requirement and essential climate change technology. Scotland remains the best-placed country in Europe to realise CCUS on a commercial scale. That is why the Scottish Government support the Acorn CCS project at St Fergus, which has also secured €1.9 million in funding. The Scottish Government have delivered an exceptional range of support for the oil and gas sector. They have delivered an increase of £270 million to the economy, jobs and a fair work portfolio, including an uplift of more than £194 million in the enterprise and energy budget to support entrepreneurship, construction and productivity. That additional funding contributes to investment of almost £2.4 billion in enterprise and skills through our enterprise agencies and skills bodies.

I could go on and give a lot more detail on the Scottish Government’s support, but I will welcome one thing that the UK Government did recently: introducing the transferable tax histories mechanism in the 2017 Budget. But why has that been deferred by at least a year, when it is a crucial time for industry? That incentive could have been used to realise long-life assets.

The Scottish Government are doing everything they can with a world-leading climate Bill and bold support for renewable energy. The Scottish Government’s forward-looking agenda puts Westminster’s to shame. The UK Government should do more to support oil and gas and far more to support renewables opportunities. They should not make this mistake with nuclear. It is high time that they abandoned their costly love affair with nuclear and instead focused investment that can make a real, positive difference for our environment, jobs and our economy.

Order. If remaining Back-Bench Members speak for no longer than six minutes, there should be time for everyone to speak who wishes to.

It is a pleasure to speak in this important debate and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison) on securing it. She made many excellent points in welcoming the deal, and I agree that Ministers and industry have taken some positive and necessary steps forward to secure sector jobs and skills, and for our national prosperity.

This is the fifth sector deal under the modern industrial strategy and I hope it will not be the last; as the Minister knows, as an MP representing the potteries I am extremely keen to see a successful sector deal for ceramics. I want to highlight the transferability of skills, knowledge and technology from across the advanced manufacturing industry, which are germane to a civil nuclear sector deal.

I also want to talk about transferability and advances in the military-use nuclear sector, especially those achieved by Goodwin International in my constituency. That firm assures me that many of its skills and technology are transferable to civil-use power generation, with much to offer if the investment environment is right and if the appropriate guarantees are in place on the development of small modular reactors—SMRs.

I am encouraged by the £44 million SMR framework, which, the deal promises on page 22, will offer “greater flexibility” in the generic design assessment process. It confirms that the SMR expert finance working group will report to Ministers very soon. We can, and indeed must, be well placed to develop first-of-a-kind small reactor projects. SMRs represent an exciting new technology that opens up more of the industry to partial manufacturing in off-site supply chains. This factory-build production line approach has the potential to reduce significantly the costs of nuclear energy generation, creating economies of scale and making nuclear a much more viable solution to our future energy demands.

It is welcome that the Government intend to pursue the development of credible commercial propositions and the viability of private investment vehicles for clean energy infrastructure projects using advanced nuclear technologies. However, wherever possible and appropriate, any up-front Government guarantees on taking the energy produced by SMR technology would be extremely helpful to de-risk, and thereby leverage, the investment the Government seek from private funds and commercial companies such as Goodwin International. If we have the domestic confidence to develop SMRs, that will lead to wider confidence in the technology, leading to opportunities for the UK to benefit from exports of SMRs to other countries.

The Government are well aware of the crossover potential from military-use nuclear technology. On page 36, the deal talks of “our new Dreadnought submarines” and the fantastic workers at Barrow who are responsible for their assembly. I would not want it to be overlooked that those submarines rely on critical supply chains across the country. Goodwin International is expert in producing the high-end nuclear-grade steel components required. The engines are developed and produced by equally fantastic workers in Stoke-on-Trent. On page 27, in a section dedicated to sector transferability, there is explicit mention of transferable

“bespoke programmes that support the transitioning and transfer of capability between civil and defence” .

I await with great interest further details on the pilot scheme on transferable skills between oil and gas, the armed forces and manufacturing, especially as that will be aligned to “regional skills priorities.”

The city of Stoke-on-Trent and our country would benefit greatly from the envisaged career champions and work experience placements, alongside the T-levels programme and apprenticeships of the engineering and manufacturing route. Engaging young people in education and training, so that they get the transferable skills they will need for careers in advanced manufacturing and world-class engineering, is a regional skills priority for us, as is export capability. I welcome the involvement of the Department for International Trade and the export ambition of £2 billion of contracts by 2030. If anything, I hope that target proves to be rather low.

This sector deal is welcome, and so is the fact that it is not an edict from above and that, although it has concrete measures, it is not cast in stone. There is a great opportunity now for the sector and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to keep reaching out and to get the details right, while maintaining certain flexibility in an era of uncertain, rapid technological change. I look forward to engaging with the Government to realise the benefits for my constituents of the frameworks, pilot projects and partnership building that will advance the deal further as lessons are learned.

It is a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair, Mr Owen, and to follow such a well-considered speech by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton). I thank him for what he said about Barrow, and for the components that his constituents so expertly make. I also thank him for the adept way in which he raised the need and the opportunities for deeper collaboration between the military and civil nuclear sectors. That is the only way I can excuse the hon. Member for Carlisle (John Stevenson) for what seemed like the appalling omission of Barrow shipyard from his roll-call of the fantastic components of Cumbria’s economy.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison) on securing this debate. I have worked closely with her on the collaboration between military and civil nuclear, and I associate myself with all the points that she made in her excellent speech. We want to ensure that south and west Cumbria becomes a global hub of civil and military nuclear excellence. We have world-class skills at Sellafield and Barrow shipyard, and we will have them in time with NuGen—I will say more about that in a moment. We are determined that the area should do more to promote itself as one travel-to-work area, look outwards to the world and give a joint message about what we can do together.

We need support from the Government to do that. It is great to see the Minister here, not least because the debate gives him the opportunity to answer questions that he was unable to answer last week, when he was not in the House for my urgent question on the nuclear sector deal. In that urgent question, I raised our need for support from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for our bid to better connect south and west Cumbria, not simply metaphorically but literally and physically. We need the support of BEIS in order to persuade the Department for Transport that the transport links in our area, notably the A595 along the Cumbria coastline, which is in an appalling state, need to be addressed.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is important to have joined-up thinking within Government in this area? Yes, this is the nuclear sector deal, but it goes beyond nuclear. We need to get the Department for Transport, the Treasury and BEIS involved, so that we address issues such as the A595, which he rightly points out is badly in need of improvement.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and I thank him for his continued support on the campaign to get the A595 to work. The Department for Education needs to be part of that joined-up thinking, because one of our other big challenges—the deal touches on this, but it is felt particularly acutely in south and west Cumbria—is raising our school standards. We have some of the most advanced jobs it is possible to have, certainly in the large-scale manufacturing projects in Barrow shipyard, yet we have school leavers with lower than average numeracy and literacy. That cannot be right, and we all need to work together to raise those standards, so that the workers we will need in future are capable of doing the tasks we need them to do from the moment they leave school.

Finally, the Minister needs to answer vital questions about the future of the Moorside development in west Cumbria. It would be unconscionable if that development did not go ahead. What the hon. Member for Copeland said about the regulated asset base is absolutely right, but this is a perilous moment for the NuGen deal. We need to hear from the Government that they will stand by the development come what may, be it with a regulated asset base or something else, and that they will not allow Moorside to stall, given the many thousands of jobs and the energy security it would bring, which are crucial to the nation. The Minister can give that message today, and we in Cumbria need to hear it.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Owen, and to follow the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock), who highlighted many important areas. He focused especially on jobs. We ought to have a good distribution of quality, secure jobs right across the country, and the energy sector in the north-west of England is vital for providing such jobs. I appreciated that on my numerous visits to the Copeland constituency during the by-election campaign—a fourth reason to visit Cumbria. The importance to the local economy of the nuclear sector jobs at Sellafield and elsewhere ought to be recognised. The high-skilled, stable, long-term jobs that the nuclear industry provides are vital not just to people in Cumbria but to many of my constituents, because Cheshire and Warrington are another centre—albeit a very different one—for the nuclear industry.

The focus on nuclear is increasing because demand for electricity will increase in the years ahead, for a variety of reasons. There is also a focus on carbon-free energy production, for a range of good reasons, including the need to control carbon emissions due to concerns about climate change, and concerns about where our oil and gas come from. There are certain parts of the world that we would rather not be dependent on for our energy—we have only to look at the problems Russia caused a few years ago by shutting down gas supplies to eastern Europe. To have security and independence of supply would hugely benefit the country. That is a reason for going nuclear.

We also need to look at our base-load supply. At certain times, such as the middle of winter and at night, solar panels and wind turbines do not provide much energy. There is a significant focus on those technologies, but we do not have the ability to store energy if we over-produce at certain times of the year, week or day. We must therefore ensure that we have a base-load supply. If that is not going to be carbon, we must look to nuclear.

On increased demand for electricity, the Secretary of State for Transport recently made a positive announcement about the next development in our focus on electric vehicles. If we are going to have more electric vehicles—whether they are charged at home, at businesses or in other places around the country—we need to look at power sources to ensure that they can be charged rapidly. We need to look not just at the production of energy, but at its distribution. I would welcome the Minister’s comments about the distribution of energy as we move into an era of more electric vehicles and other demands on the energy sector. Jobs are a key part of that, and whether we go for small modular reactors or full-scale nuclear power stations, we ultimately need cheap, affordable energy for our consumers and businesses.

It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Mr Owen. I thank the hon. Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison) for introducing the debate.

In the words of Lord Hutton of Furness, co-chairman of the Nuclear Industry Council, the UK’s civil nuclear sector

“is amongst the most advanced in the world. Our global leadership status has been earnt through a record across the entire nuclear lifecycle—from enrichment, through fuel production, generation, operation, new build, research and decommissioning—and increasingly enhanced by our world class regulatory system as the country’s new build programme takes shape.”

Hartlepool is part of that success story. Hartlepool power station, as part of the fleet of nuclear power stations that provides more than 20% of the UK’s electricity supply, has provided a low-carbon, reliable, clean energy product since 1983 and is a major provider of employment in the town.

The advanced gas-cooled reactor at Hartlepool currently provides electricity for more than 3% of the UK, with a net electrical output of 1,190 MW—enough to power 1.5 million homes. However, it is coming to the end of its life cycle, so I have written to the Secretary of State seeking support for Hartlepool as a site on which to develop new nuclear productivity around small modular reactor technology.

Hartlepool has the relevant licences, a skilled workforce, existing electricity transmission infrastructure and, more importantly, a community used to the presence of a nuclear generator. We are best placed to deliver the next generation of nuclear and meet the ambitions of the nuclear sector deal. The deal sets out pledges from both the Government and the nuclear industry for making cost reductions and initiatives to support the sector. SMRs are central to that vision, as they meet the increased demand for low-carbon solutions, produce clean, affordable energy and are much smaller than traditional nuclear reactors. Over their life cycle they could deliver £62 billion for the economy and create up to 40,000 jobs.

In an area where new energy solutions such as carbon capture and storage are being explored and developed through new technologies and industries, Hartlepool is in a prime situation to take our nuclear capability to the next level. That is why it is important that we are identified as a future site for SMRs as soon as possible. We have the potential and shared vision to develop the next generation of nuclear power and foster innovation and new technologies, and we are ready and willing to deliver this exciting agenda.

Because of the discipline of Back Benchers and the concise way in which they gave speeches, I can call the Front Benchers early. I ask them to leave some time for the sponsor of the debate to say a few words at the end.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Owen. I am sure it is your stewardship that has allowed the debate to progress so well. You sit through many debates in Westminster Hall and will have seen how they often have a unifying effect, with everyone saying roughly the same thing and agreeing on the argument, so I am sure as Chair you will welcome there being two sides to the argument on the nuclear sector deal. I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry) for providing the counter-arguments.

I commend the hon. Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison) for securing the debate. I note that she thanked all Members for contributing at the start and end of her speech, but I wonder whether that will hold true for the contributions from my party.

I talked about there being a unifying effect, and there is no doubt that Labour and the Conservatives are singing from the same hymn sheet. In that, from our perspective there is a wee bit of a throwback to Better Together. That, again, is why I am delighted to put forward a different argument.

The hon. Member for Copeland rightly spoke about jobs and skills. I appreciate that highly skilled people work in the industry, and I commend her and all the other constituency MPs for arguing for the value of the jobs brought to their constituencies. It is only right that MPs should fight for jobs in their constituencies, but other people in Parliament have to look at the bigger picture, not just the narrow, localised effect. She spoke about her family history and involvement in the nuclear industry. In fact, my brother-in-law works at a nuclear site in Hunterston in Ayrshire. Again, I appreciate the high level of skills and value of the jobs, but that does not change my outlook on nuclear.

The hon. Lady spoke about the opening of a power station in 1956. I had a shudder, because I thought she had said 1966—it must be World cup fever—so I had to look it up, and I am glad it was not that year. She mentioned Glasgow University, where I did civil engineering. She also mentioned cosmic particles, which is when it starts to go above my pay grade and understanding as a civil engineer. That does illustrate the multitude of skills involved in the nuclear industry.

The hon. Lady spoke about new ways to finance nuclear energy. I suggest that they are just another way of UK plc being completely indebted currently and for future generations. She mentioned that 100,000 workers would be required by 2021, which for me was a sobering statistic. That is not far away, and if 100,000 skilled workers are required by then the Government are already way behind the curve on science, technology, engineering and maths, on university qualifications and on generating workers. Yet again, that illustrates the impact of Brexit, trying to control borders and not letting people in. There will be a massive shortfall, because there is no way to create 100,000 new workers by 2021.

It is actually only an extra 13,000 workers. We currently have 87,000 workers in the UK and it will be taken up to 100,000 by 2021.

I thank the hon. Lady for correcting the record. However, even 13,000 jobs by 2021 is still a big ask and a massive challenge for the Government.

The hon. Lady also mentioned the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and how it should be renamed the nuclear development authority—a sleight of hand picked up by other hon. Members. The NDA is responsible for massive expenditure on the historical legacy and historical folly of past investment in the nuclear industry. We should not look at it as a development opportunity. We should show it for what it is, liable for cleaning up the mess of past investment.

I would suggest the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) went slightly off topic and concentrated on the military, which is understandable, given his constituency interests. He did not say how the new nuclear submarines and Trident replacement will cost £200 billion, which is another nuclear folly investment that we could do without. I agree with him on Government silos. He said we should beg, steal and borrow from the civil nuclear industry to help the military, but that is not the right approach to nuclear; that is what has got us into the mess we already see. He also said that nuclear submarines cannot be stored indefinitely. I completely agree. That is another mistake that Governments of different colours have made. It is time the Government took action to address that, rather than having subs rusting away.

The hon. Member for Carlisle (John Stevenson) spoke of how Cumbria manages to juggle tourism and the nuclear industry—both civil and military. That pays testament to the beauty of Cumbria and his constituency in being able to do that. He also spoke about a change of role for the NDA, which I have already said I do not agree with.

I agree with everything said by my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey—who would have thought? When he sat down, he joked about being popular. We saw hon. Members starting to look away or tune out because they did not agree with him, but I certainly do. My hon. Friend was right to highlight the potential £20 billion of Wylfa investment, the Public Accounts Committee’s recommendations and the bad deal that is Hinkley. He correctly highlighted—let us not shy from this—that the contract for difference strike rate for offshore wind is now £57.50 per MWh, including intermittent costs. That, Mr Owen, is for only 15 years; Hinkley, at £92.50 per MWh, is a 35-year deal, so it is even more than what we are sometimes led to believe. My hon. Friend correctly highlighted Hitachi’s past failures and fines, and the decommissioning costs of Hinkley, and I will make further comments about that.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) spoke about the £44 million package for small modular reactors. I admire his optimism, but I suggest it is a bit naive. This unproven technology still needs to be developed, and let us not be kidded that the Government will enter into another blank cheque agreement to supply the SMRs.

The hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock) spoke about the world-class skills at Sellafield, and I agree with him. However, some of those world-class skills are due to the £91 billion cost of decommissioning at Sellafield—there is a legacy for the nuclear industry to be proud of. It is estimated that those decommissioning costs will be £121 billion by 2020, which again illustrates the folly of it all. The hon. Gentleman also mentioned baseload, but even National Grid now says that baseload is an outdated concept based on past assumptions.

The hon. Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) says that we should not rely on foreign countries for our energy supply, but let me ask him who is involved in Hinkley—I am pretty sure that China is classed as a foreign country, although perhaps not one we want to rely on for the security of our energy supply.

The hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mike Hill) spoke about small modular reactors, and he also mentioned carbon capture and storage—I would certainly welcome the development of CCS in his constituency and the wider Teesside area.

Hinkley was the Prime Minister’s first U-turn. When she came to power she hit pause on Hinkley Point C, which I welcomed. I thought, “Here we go. Let’s have a fresh look at this and scrap the project”, but no, there was another U-turn, and the strong and stable Prime Minister showed her will and backbone, caved in and threw money at foreign countries to allow Hinkley to go ahead.

The nuclear sector deal, at £200 million as well as the £32 million kick-start for research and development, is small beer in terms of overall Government expenditure. Hon. Members have said how good that funding is, but it is really just a signal of intent, rather than absolute hard cash. Indeed, compare that funding with the £586 million in sunk costs of three major contracts that have been cancelled at Sellafield since 2012, because the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority found more cost-effective strategies. The real hidden cost of nuclear power is the cost of decommissioning.

A National Audit Office report states that the cost of decommissioning will be £121 billion, and £6 billion is the total expected spend on major projects that are currently in design or under construction at Sellafield. Sellafield Ltd’s spend on major projects in 2017-18 was £483 million. I understand why constituency MPs welcome that spend and the jobs in their constituencies, but taxpayers across the UK are picking up the bill to support those local jobs, and we need to take a closer look at the issue. I will conclude my remarks by urging the Government to end the folly of their nuclear obsession, start reinvesting in renewables, and allow onshore wind and solar to bid for future contract for difference options. That is the future, not nuclear.

This morning I will concentrate on the debate initiated by the hon. Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison), which is on the nuclear sector deal, following the publication of the industrial strategy, before making a few other remarks. I congratulate her on securing this debate. She provides an example of one of the pillars of the industrial strategy, which is about place, and during her time in the House she has been a superb advocate for her place in the country in relation to nuclear programmes. Indeed, I served with her on the Nuclear Safeguards Bill Committee, and I learned a lot about the nuclear industry and its associated activities as a result of serving on that Committee and hearing her important interventions.

In her remarks the hon. Lady put the issues in this sector deal squarely on the table. It is good that we have an industrial strategy in the first place. For many years there was no such thing as an industrial strategy in Government—indeed, the Government said that having such a strategy would be a bad idea. Having an industrial strategy document and plan, followed by sector deals, is a considerable advance towards ensuring that industries and centres of industry get collective support among themselves by using their own skills and arrangements, as well as Government support to take that forward. This sector deal has been brought forward very much as a collaborative process. The Nuclear Industry Council and the Nuclear Industry Association produced an early prototype of this sector deal to bring to the Government, and the current deal shows clear signs of that collaboration.

What should we draw attention to in the sector deal? The first thing is the extent to which it highlights our skills and strengths in particular areas of our nuclear industry. As the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock) said, one of those strengths is the world-beating concentration of decommissioning, research and development, and nuclear development facilities that exist in and around Sellafield and in Cumbria generally. It seems right that the sector deal should seek to strengthen and extend the work of that centre in the UK because—as hon. Members have mentioned—of the possibilities that exist for substantial world contracts, the export of skills, knowledge and knowhow, practical assistance in nuclear decommissioning, and the many other associated activities that can, do, and will stem from that part of the country. I commend the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion that the collaboration between military nuclear and civil nuclear should be extended because, among other reasons, of the crossover of skills and technologies that can result from such collaboration.

Some hon. Members might have thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) made a slight diversion from our discussion this morning, and I have discussed with him for a long time the question of what to do about decommissioning nuclear submarines. That decommissioning effectively comes under a programme in the Ministry of Defence but, as my hon. Friend said, such a programme does not exist in reality. Yet if we were to join together that decommissioning with our decommissioning in Sellafield, using the skills there, we could make enormous progress on something that, as my hon. Friend mentioned, is a dreadful blot on our national landscape—it can be seen on Google. It needs to be dealt with urgently and Sellafield is the place to do it. We should ensure we do that in the not-too-distant future. I should like that included specifically in the sector deal. Perhaps when we get to version 1.2 that will happen. By the way, another enormous centre of nuclear excellence is the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy; I should mention the sector deal funding for it and the Government’s support for nuclear fusion and the work there.

Inevitably, documents have strengths and weaknesses. The weakness of the sector deal document is two-fold. Perhaps the first part of that is not a weakness but a recognition of what needs to be done in the nuclear sector in the next period. I note from the executive summary that there is to be, by agreement,

“a 30% reduction in the cost of new build projects by 2030”


“savings of 20% in the cost of decommissioning compared with current estimates by 2030”.

That reflects the fact that as things stand a lot of nuclear activity is just too expensive. Hon. Members have mentioned that the costs of new nuclear build and perhaps the process of bringing new builds into operation are still apparently far too high. Indeed, the national infrastructure assessment for 2018 has recently come out, and it suggests that only one new nuclear build should be signed up to before 2025, because of its analysis of the current relative costs of new nuclear and new renewables. It also suggests that, even with arrangements such as the regulated asset base that the Government are looking at in relation to new nuclear build, costs would be transferred rather than reduced. Certainly if that arrangement meant that consumers bore the same costs, but in advance of the plants coming into operation, which appears to be one mechanism of the regulated asset base arrangement, it would be an evasion of the task ahead, rather than implementation. It seems to me that the commitment in the nuclear sector deal to bring those costs down is important, and that it is an essential element of the way nuclear build would compete in the future with other forms of energy production. That is an important component of the nuclear sector deal.

Finally, I want briefly to draw attention to the advanced nuclear reactors that have been discussed here this morning—small modular nuclear reactors. There is a cost element problem attached to them, too, but they have substantial advocates, for a variety of reasons. There is a suggestion that their modular nature could bring down costs considerably. The document includes a commitment to £44 million, as the hon. Member for Copeland and others have mentioned, to underpin developments on small modular nuclear reactors. That is a bit of a surprise to me, as I recall hearing a suggestion in the 2016 Budget that there should be £250 million of support for them and, indeed, a competition to sort out the best designs. I also recall that in the following two years I did not hear any news about the competition or its outcomes, or about the expenditure of the £250 million, other than a statement by the Minister at the end of 2017 that there might be up to £100 million, not for a competition but for the development of small modular nuclear reactors. As it turned out, the Minister then made a statement that £56 million would be available.

Now, in the nuclear sector deal, the figure is £44 million. That is not to my mind exactly a great deal, from the Government end, for small modular nuclear reactors in the future, bearing in mind what was previously promised and what is in place now. I wonder if the Minister would comment on whether that is because of efficiency gains or the allocation of the money for other purposes—or perhaps because the Government are simply cooling towards the idea of supporting small modular nuclear reactors and have put a reduced sum in the nuclear sector deal. Whatever the reason, Government support for a promising and interesting development seems to have been substantially downgraded. What are the Minister’s thoughts on the appropriateness of that, and might he have further thoughts on how the support could be better deployed in future, on new deals?

It is a pleasure, as always, Mr Owen, to speak under your chairmanship. I would very much like to answer the shadow Minister’s points, but I am very short of time. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison) on securing the debate. In fact, on a recent visit to Sellafield she knew so many people that I thought there should be a big sign in the street saying “There’s oodles of Troodles”—because she is omnipresent. She personifies the way the Government support the nuclear sector. I must disagree with the two Scottish National party speeches; there is a fundamental difference of opinion there. We believe that nuclear is an important part of the mix for this country. We do not agree that it is incompatible with building up renewables. Security of supply is the most important thing. One of our strengths is the balance that we have. I know that will continue. [Interruption.] I do not really have time to give way. I have to get on, or I cannot answer hon. Members’ questions. The Government are committed to those strengths. We must develop the technologies that will transform existing industries; that is part of our industrial strategy and the nuclear sector deal is an important part of that.

I must apologise to the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock) for not being at his urgent question, but when I heard about it I was on a train from Chester to north Wales to help launch the nuclear sector deal. However, had he informed me the night before, it would of course have been my pleasure to be there. I will come on to his points in a moment.

The sector deal was launched in Trawsfynydd in north Wales, which is a fitting setting for it. It is a £200 million package with a focus on innovation, cost reduction and skills, to ensure we have the technology and expertise necessary to maintain the UK’s position as one of the world’s leaders in the nuclear sector. I congratulate Lord Hutton, the sector champion; we worked with him and with industry leads from the Nuclear Industry Council to develop the content of the deal. The basic points are, first, a 30% cost reduction in the cost of new build projects. As the shadow Minister said, it is essential for the future that the cost of nuclear comes down.

The cost of Hinkley Point was mentioned in the contributions from the Scottish National party; that was done in such a way that there is no risk to the taxpayer but huge benefits to this country. On a recent visit to Hinkley Point, I was very well hosted by the local MP, my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater and West Somerset (Mr Liddell-Grainger), and I recommend that the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry) takes him up on his invitation. It is an incredible site and so good for this country, with local contractors and British companies employing so many people.

The second point is to achieve savings of 20% in the cost of decommissioning compared with current estimates, and the third is hugely to increase the number of women. I was impressed by the number of women working on the site in Hinkley, particularly the apprentices.

I must rush. The hon. Member for Barrow and Furness asked me to answer a question about the transport link points and said, quite rightly, that my Department must work closely with the Department for Transport. I know that that is happening and that there is a joint committee, but, as a result of his point, I will attend the next meeting of the joint committee and personally report back to the hon. Gentleman—either by writing to him or by arranging to meet him on that subject.

NuGen Moorside, which the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (John Stevenson) mentioned, is a commercial matter between companies at the moment. The Government do not have a magic answer to that, but my hon. Friend asked me to state that we stand by to provide whatever assistance is needed, and we have shown in Wylfa, Anglesey, in which you may have an interest, Mr Owen—although I know you are interested in everything that goes on while you are in the Chair—that we will look at innovative methods of funding new nuclear developments. I understand that there are commercial negotiations going on in places such as Japan and South Korea, and we are monitoring the situation. Again, I will happily report to my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness what comes from it.

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) brought up some interesting points, which I must say I was completely ignorant of, about the nuclear submarines in Devonport. I have not looked on Google Earth, because I thought that would be a bit rude under your chairmanship, Mr Owen, but I will do so straight afterwards. I know there is a joint review between the Ministry of Defence and ourselves on decommissioning, and there is a lot of work to be done, but I want to include the MOD more in everything we do. It is quite time enough, and the hon. Gentleman made a very good point, supported by some of my hon. Friends. Because the MOD is a member of the Nuclear Industry Council, it is time that that artificial distinction came to an end, and I will do my absolute best to bring that about.

My hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle and other speakers brought up points about the RAB system of funding, at which we are looking closely. There is a lot of work going on about that. Obviously, I cannot make an announcement on it because we have not yet reached that stage, but it is an innovative form of funding. It gives certainty; it has worked for the Thames tideway and is being looked at for other schemes, and I hope to report back on developments there.

The main point of the whole sector deal that I can see, which is one of the first things that I really got involved in when I took on this portfolio and which I am impressed by, is the contributions from industry and how many different companies are involved. It is not just the usual suspects, or two or three people; it is very comprehensive.

On decommissioning, I have been asked by several hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland, about the role of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority as time goes on and moving it from decommissioning to development. Its interest now is in decommissioning; it is the decommissioning authority, and we know that that is overwhelmingly its most significant purpose. However, on a visit to Sellafield, where I met and was impressed by their management, I was told that they already do about £100 million worth of export services. We are well respected throughout the world, and I think it will develop exactly in the way that my hon. Friend suggested, towards a development agency. Part of the sector deal is to transform decommissioning from where it is now, which certainly on the face of it is just a burden to the taxpayer, to an industry that employs a lot of people and supports a lot of products for this country and will be the foremost of its nature in the world. The set-up is now there to achieve that.

I will finish my comments now, Mr Owen, because you have asked me to leave time for my hon. Friend to make a few winding-up comments. I thank everybody; I am sorry I have not had time to go into more detail on some points, but I am always available to talk about them with any hon. Member here.

I thank the Minister for his comments, which were both reassuring and helpful for all of us who speak positively about the nuclear industry. I will come on to the comments by my SNP colleagues, because I welcome them and the challenge of the hon. Members for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry) and for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown). There was quite a lot that I agreed with. I agree that we need to bring down the cost of new nuclear and also that we need to ensure that the decommissioning skills do not just take from the taxpayer but generate more. We can do that through exporting those skills, as I said in my comments.

I also agree that this is part of an energy mix. In my constituency, we have skilled engineers with transferable skills now working in the renewables sector in their spare time, because in a place such as Cumbria or, indeed, Scotland we should not face fuel poverty; we should transform it to fuel prosperity. I want to see more local communities use natural resources, whether that be wave and hydro power, biomass and anaerobic digestion, geothermal or solar. I want to see those technologies harnessed in our local communities.

However, I will just draw attention to one point: last Saturday, wind energy generated just 3.4% of the energy power requirement. I am sure we all remember that last Saturday was a critical day. If the TVs had gone off last Saturday it would have meant catastrophe for England—perhaps not so important for Scotland, but I would like to think there was support there.

I thank hon. Members for their contributions. I have found the debate helpful and I feel there is much more scope for us to work cross-party for the benefit of nuclear civil and nuclear defence, right through from research and development, SMR, advanced modular reactors, large-scale reactors and operations to decommissioning and export, to ensure that we have the skills for the future, to galvanise the nuclear industry and to secure our place once again as global leaders.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered the nuclear sector deal.